We Need THIS, Not Affirmative Action
Septermber 13, 2005 (updated September, 2018)
There are two ways, short of an egalitarian revolution, to redress the decades of racial discrimination in hiring and school admissions.
The first way produces great resentment of whites against blacks and Hispanics and undermines solidarity.
The second way produces great solidarity between whites and blacks and Hispanics.
Our ruling elite made their choice shortly after the Civil Rights Movement had garnered tremendous support from white working class people on the basis of opposing racial discrimination; the Movement gained so much widespread support for this goal that it was able to abolish Jim Crow's racial discrimination in law.
Which way do you suppose was chosen by our ruling plutocracy, in particular by its chief agent at the time, President Richard Nixon (Hint: Recall that Nixon's chief economic advisor and Watergate convict, John Ehrlichman, admitted that Nixon was hostile to blacks, as reported in a Huffington Post article titled, "Nixon Aide Reportedly Admitted Drug War Was Meant To Target Black People: 'Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.' ") If you guessed the first way you would be right.
The ruling class chose what came to be known as Affirmative Action. As the blurb for the book, Richard Nixon and the Rise of Affirmative Action, says:
"Richard Nixon is hardly remembered for his civil rights policies but there is no denying that, more than any other president, he is responsible for affirmative action. Noting Nixon's hostility towards busing, his political allegiances with segregationists, and the hostility of leading civil rights figures at the time, historians and political scientists have avoided explaining why the origins of modern affirmative action lie in the Nixon era."
As this blurb notes, Nixon was no anti-racist. That's actually why he liked Affirmative Action. Here's why.
Affirmative Action sets lower (i.e., easier) criteria for minorities than for whites to be hired or accepted into a college or university. Instead of being against racial discrimination, Affirmative Action is for it. What has been the result? Terrible!
For decades now whites have been hearing employers or schools tell them, "We're sorry. We couldn't give you the position you applied for because we had to give it to a less qualified minority person." Could a better method of creating racial resentment ever be invented?* (Furthermore, Affirmative Action has not come close to delivering the goods or even moving things substantially closer to the goal of racial equality. What we have now is the "New Jim Crow" of racist prison incarceration.)
The second method, the one the plutocracy avoided like the plague, is this:
Make the criterion for being hired to a job or admitted to a school be the same regardless of race: that the applicant has what is really required to do the job or benefit from the school. Stop requiring applicants to get some arbitrary score on a test (like the SAT) that correlates far more with race and economic status than with actual ability to succeed as an employee or student. In addition, bring back on-the-job training (something only older people remember) so that the criterion for getting hired is what really matters--simply the ability to learn the relevant new skills. This alone would dramatically increase the numbers of minorities hired for jobs or admitted to schools.
In addition, however, the second method would include guaranteeing anybody, regardless of race, this: If you're willing to work reasonably doing something socially useful (that's different from making a profit for a capitalist!) then you'll have the opportunity to do so and to receive in return the same standard of living as anybody else.** And furthermore the second method would include this: Create schools sufficient in number and appropriate in type of instruction to enable any person who wants to further their education to do so.
The second method of redressing past racial discrimination would result in ZERO unemployment among minorities as well as whites and would enable EVERY minority person and every white person who wanted to further their education to do so. If THIS were the solution to making up for past racial discrimination in hiring and school admissions (even just the first part of the method alone) then white working people would be in agreement with it. They'd LOVE it. But no, the plutocracy didn't choose the second solution because it would not have furthered divide-and-rule. Still, the second solution is the kind of solution that we should fight for as a way of ending racial discrimination and making a better world for all of us. It's an egalitarian solution.
Note also that the plutocracy did not do the most minimal thing to end racial discrimination in hiring and school admissions, which would have been to a) make it a crime with a big punishment to commit such racial discrimination, b) use the FBI to aggressively investigate such racial discrimination (with measures that could include things such as sending fake resumes to employers or school applications to schools that were virtually identical except for the race of the applicant, and seeing if there was a pattern of racial discrimination in deciding who to invite for a face-to-face interview or whom to offer an admission) and c) aggressively prosecute those suspected of racial discrimination in hiring or school admission decisions. Why didn't the plutocracy to at least this? Because ending racial discrimination was never the plutocracy's goal; creating resentment and mistrust between the races was.
Why Were Affirmative Action AND the Racist War on Drugs Both Initiated by the Same Person--Richard Nixon?
President Richard Nixon not only initiated Affirmative Action but also the racist War on Drugs (the racist character of which is explained here.) The War on Drugs let to a sharp increase in the prison incarceration of blacks, but not of whites, as you can see in the graph displayed here. The incarceration of blacks in numbers disproportionate to their percentage of the general population made it much easier for the ruling class to persuade whites that blacks were simply a criminal race. Prime time T.V. made sure of this.
What explains Nixon being the initiator of both Affirmative Action and the racist War on Drugs? If Nixon were truly a friend of blacks and Hispanics and Native Americans and wanted them to be freed from the racial discrimination against them and if this were his motive in initiating Affirmative Action, then why would he also have initiated the extremely racist War on Drugs? It makes no sense.
But what DOES make sense is that Nixon's motive for initiating both Affirmative Action and the War on Drugs was the same: to keep the rich in power by keeping ordinary Americans divided along race lines.
* Here is some evidence that, before Affirmative Action was implemented, it was well-known that its effect would be to destroy the solidarity between white and black working class people that had developed in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that had opposed racial discrimination. As recounted here, Bayard Rustin (who, "in the 1950s became one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s key advisers...[and who] played a major role in devising the tactics that were responsible for the civil rights movement’s early victories in the Deep South...[and who in] 1963 ... was named as the chief organizer of the March on Washington ") in the 1970s "was thus uncomfortable with racial preferences that he believed would alienate the white working class."
** Martin Luther King, Jr., always advocated "race-neutral" improvements that would benefit all working class people; he never advocated racial preferences that came to be known, after his death, as "Affirmative Action." In King's address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967 he thus said:
"The problem indicates that our emphasis must be twofold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available."